Have you heard of Lean Working within your workplace? You may, like me, expect it to be a catchy acronym (L.E.A.N) although admittedly I couldn’t work out what it might stand for. However, the way I have come to understand it is by comparing it to “Lean Muscle”; ensuring minimal useless products (fat / wasted resources) and strengthening the core material (the muscle / process).
The key purpose of Lean Working is: ensuring the most value to your customer with the minimal input of resources (such as effort, time, materials and energy).
- Reduce waste
- Optimize the whole process
- Ensure quality in everything
- Manage workflow to enable faster delivery
- Nurture knowledge
- Respect people and their uniqueness
In any organisation, there are many moving parts (business functions) and limited resources (raw materials, knowledge, experience, time, finance, energy). Aligning the moving parts makes the best use of the limited resources.
Understanding the value that flows through moving parts is essential; consider a Value Stream Mapping Exercise.
Before we can tap into the potential of employees, they need to be given a strong infrastructure in which they clearly communicate and share; especially skills, knowledge and goals. All moving parts should be successful in their own right and contribute to the value of the whole.
Waste: anything that adds no value and the customer would not be willing to pay for.
Quality built in: Error-proofing the system and processes as much as possible.
Waste: processes that require high effort with low benefit, over-complex decision-making processes, overburden of staff, planning too far in advance with little fact, duplication (more than one person doing the same task unnecessarily).
Quality Built In: automate processes where possible (such as those that are repeatable or prone to human error), document and share good practices and knowledges.
Put employees in the role that is best suited to them; take into account their knowledge and experience, and what they enjoy doing.
Often implemented alongside Lean business methodologies, Agile is a business model designed to help businesses quickly and easily adapt to the ever-changing business landscape.
- Quickly adapt to changes internally and externally
- Respond to customer demands with flexibility and speed
- Adapt in a cost effective and productive way
- Maintain a competitive advantage
The business environment is unpredictable, and agile businesses are better equipped to adapt to and take advantage of changes and challenges.
Leadership needs to be willing to embrace changes, increase capacity and advance their business capabilities.
Agile culture requires the working environment to be supported by the core values of quality and productive behaviours and practices.
Elements of Agile include:
- Innovation and education
- Ability to adapt
- Unrestricted purpose
- Agile leadership
- Productively distributed authority
Agile requires a certain flexibility throughout the life cycle of the project in order for project participants to adapt quickly and easily to changes, with the aim to produce high quality projects in a shorter timeframe.
Rapid decision making can be supported with cross-functioning teams who are able to solve specific problems without the need to pass the issues around.
Technology can provide an excellent support for an agile business system, including online and cloud-based tools for project management and customer relations. This allows employees to work in locations other than their office, enabling more effective time use (such as in the extreme weather conditions that sometimes hinder travel).
Shorter project timelines can also allow organisations to adapt to changes quicker and implement new or improved working methods.